Everyday people can be the drivers of positive change

Jul 28, 2023

Ngarra Murray addresses Assembly Members, the Victorian Premier and members of Victorian Parliament as the newly elected co-chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly.

Hello everyone. Thank you, Aunty Di, for welcoming us to Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Country. My respectful acknowledgement of you, your ancestors and Elders and your families.

This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.

Our countries – right across this place we call Victoria today – hold the markings of our history: the very first fires, the ceremonies, the middens, the scar trees that made the canoes and the coolamons that carried our ancestors.

This is Country that has felt thousands of generations of footsteps and was criss-crossed by our families.

Everyone here today is lucky to call this place home, this beautiful Country.

And whether your family has been here for five years or 50,000 years, or 3,000 generations like our people, we can all take a moment to recognise, respect and celebrate the oldest living culture on the planet.

Right here, we have had ancient jurisdictions made up of country, Lores, traditions, rules, and values, that have been effective for thousands and thousands of years.

Our people continued to adapt and use these to govern, and collectively organise ourselves.

Invasion and colonisation saw concentrated and sustained attempts to smash these things. To eradicate our people.

But the strength and the determination of those old people could not be moved.

We thank them as it’s because of our Elders that we are here today. They kept the fires burning against injustice.

I want to thank the Premier, Daniel Andrews, and his team for coming here today and being willing to hear our truths, to listen to our histories that have too often been swept aside.

Our history teaches us that no matter how much we lost during the frontier wars, and to colonialism, we were not defeated. As I, and all of us, are living proof.

The First Peoples’ Assembly is self-determination in action, and we’ve got a lot of work to do ahead of us.

We could do things better, and we will do things better. Our way. Grounded in our Lore and culture. But this Assembly is ours and it’s a tremendous start.

Our people have a long and proud history of activism and asserting our rights. As leaders, trailblazers, activists, and advocates, they fought, and continue to fight for justice, equal rights, and our rights to Country.

Our people have marched to the front of this very building, raised their fists, and protested for the proper recognition of our rights.

They did so because they demanded a better life, equal rights and greater opportunities for our children, our families, and our people.

So it means a lot to me, to be here inside this building today. I’m a little bit emotional and a bit nervous as well.

You know, next to parliament is a statue of my grandparents, Pastor Douglas and Lady Gladys Nicholls – so it’s very important to me and my family that I stand here.

We’re here to have the conversations about reforming this place and dismantling the power structures that generally keep our people out there.

And again, I thank the government for its willingness to have these conversations.

I don’t know how the next few years will unfold. But I’m sure a lot of our conversations will be hard going. But I want you to know that me and Rueben and our Assembly Members come to these conversations with open minds and a willingness to share in our people’s knowledge and culture.

Don’t get me wrong – we are here with one purpose, and that is to reclaim our people’s power and freedom to make the decisions that affect our communities, culture and Country. But in doing so we are confident this journey to Treaty will strengthen the common bonds we all share.

Treaty is a journey that will deepen everyone’s connections to this land and to each other. It will put respect into the heart of these relationships.

Treaty is about a commitment to a respectful process for making meaningful decisions together – and that’s all of us.

My vision for Treaty is a future that respects our rights, our dignity, and our sovereignty as the First Peoples of this land, and also where everyone can enjoy and share a healed and healthy country. That’s all of us, together, on Country.

We all have a part to play. We all have responsibility.

History shows that positive change begins with people. Whether we’re realising our human rights, fighting racism, or standing up for our Country. It is everyday people who are the original drivers of change.

People like us. The people who show up and are willing to have the hard conversations and do the work.

Let’s keep having the hard conversations, because they will make our shared future so much better. And let’s get to work, making sure we deliver on the promise of Treaty for our people.

Our children or our grandchildren – all of ours – will grow up in a time of Treaty.

I’ve already got a little Treaty kid who follows me around.

What was a dream for our Elders will be a reality for our kids.

To wrap up, I want to thank all of the mob who have turned up for our Treaty yarning circles and shared their ideas, needs and hopes about Treaty.

We’ve had a lot of conversations, a lot of yarns, we’ve unpacked a lot of things and put it back together again.

It’s an honour to be assigned the task to make those visions a reality. It’s a really big honour for Rueben and I to be elected as co-chairs.

And I want to thank the other Assembly Members for putting their faith in me and Rueben in this process. We will do our absolute best.

We will continue the fight of our Elders.

We’ll keep this mob here on their toes, these fellas [the government], and hold them accountable to their promises. But ultimately, we’ll work with them to create a better future for everyone. And we’ll do it as equals.

Thank you very much.